Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Year In Atomic City - Part 1

We have been in Atomic City for 13 1/2 months now.
Enough time to experience all four seasons in SE Idaho.
Summers are dry and hot.  Winters are long and cold.  Spring and fall come briefly and disappear almost before you realize that they have happened.
I started this particular blog post originally intending to display art work that is scattered around town.
The art that decorates Atomic City is subtle.
Most of those who briefly come into town for beer or for the races or to four wheel or to hunt don't see this town at all.
It is a place to quickly pass through on the way to somewhere else to do something else.
Even tourists from all parts of the country who slowly drive through town (while on the way to somewhere else) don't see much in the way of "art".
Quickly snapping pictures of some of the photogenic but empty and partially falling down buildings, they turn at the BLM Fire Station, drive a mile to the two lane highway, and turn left or right and speed away, the tiny desert town with the funny name quickly forgotten.
I learned while in Alaska that the only way to see - really SEE - a town, is to slowly walk it.
Because there are..........things..........interesting things...........hidden in nooks and crannies and corners........that get noticed during walks and that go unnoticed during drives..............
After downloading only a few pictures though, I realized that my definition of art could (and is) more flexible than the formal definition of art.
If you walk around a tourist-driven town such as Sandpoint, ID there has obviously been a focused attempt on the part of businesses and residents to "pretty up" their town.
Deliberate art  Focused art.  Colorful paintings and sculptures and whimsical touches in every direction that are meant to be inviting to tourists.
They are meant to charm.  Meant to be enjoyed.  Meant to be talked about long after visitors have moved on to the next destination on their vacation agenda.
Atomic City is not one of those places.
Residents are mostly lower middle to middle class.  Mostly elderly.  Mostly retired.  Mostly content to throw up a bird feeder in their yards and call it a day.
But the real charm of Atomic City is not the bird houses.  
It is the sunsets.  The buttes.  The cloud formations in the sky.  The deer who live in town.  The frosty mist that envelopes the town often through winter and that leaves every surface covered in thick, white ice crystals.  The sometimes pretty and sometimes eye-rollingly-lame, sometimes tasteful and sometimes tasteless attempts to add color and whimsy to yards.
Mud Man is still hanging tough...............
Winter is the most serene, most completely beautiful time of year in Atomic City.
Filled with beautiful sunsets, frosty mists, frozen still lifes and never ending silence, I love love this time of year...................
Not long after we moved into the house we walked over to the side yard and tore an old wooden dog house apart.
A few months later we sanded and stained some of the dog-house wood and used it for crown molding in the laundry room.
The rest of it we kept as is, sealed it, and used it as a chair rail in a half bathroom that we now good naturedly call the Cowboy bathroom because it is filled with browns and woods and cowboy decorations.
On top of the old dog house was the remnants of electrical fence wire.  We kept all of the wire and used it both to hang pictures in the house and to tie up the fence we just built.
Also on top of the dog house were four birds.  Two were plastic and two were wood.
This is one of those plastic birds.  He is now perched on a post in the yard close to the road...............
All found in the snow beside an empty home................
The week before we made the final move from Cody to Atomic City, we drove both loaded down trucks to our new house and spent the night here before heading back to Wyoming to make the final push.
The plan was to leave one truck here at the house, drive back together, and then drive the truck and moving truck over the following week.
After spending the night at this strange new place I woke up the next morning, and while still lying on the mattress and box spring that were resting directly on the floor, the very first thing I heard was the sound of birds outside the bedroom window.
LC and Jamie were already up and I had no idea where they were, and I stayed in bed for a few minutes listening to the birds chirping.
It sounded like there were many out there and I smiled inwardly.  They sounded nice.  Happy.  Welcoming.
There are bird houses hidden among the trees of almost every home in town..............
I really love this picture.
It is the motel in town that isn't marked as a motel and isn't advertised as a motel and is rarely occupied.
But the word must be getting out somehow because occasionally someone from "The Site" stays there for short periods of time.
I see the owner (who also works at the site) frequently throughout the summer as he mows and waters his lawn or cares for one room or another.
Throughout all of last winter though, this colorful structure lay dormant and silent.
On this day Atomic City was still completely enveloped in a thick, frozen mist.
The world around me was completely grey and the trees were covered with beautiful ice crystals.
Much of winter in Atomic City looks exactly like this.
When the world is misty and grey it is beautiful. 
When the sun eventually breaks through and the sky is a freezing and brilliant blue, it is nothing short of stunning...............
I remember very clearly the evening I walked with Kory and snapped these pictures.
The sky in every direction was a watercolor combination of muted pinks and blue.
I spent last winter (as LC recovered from a back injury and as I was getting to know this new dog that we had accepted into our lives) walking with my pup in the silence of this frozen town.
 I relished in the isolation and the colors and the muted world.  
And I relished the emptiness away from people.................
A freezing cold and absolutely clear day, when the town unexpectedly transformed into a world of long, blue shadows.
It was a stunning day...............
My tall and beautiful angel silhouetted against the front window..............
When we first visited Atomic City to see the house that was for sale we saw this structure and wondered what it was.
After much discussion LC and I finally came to the conclusion that it was bleacher seating.
Of course we were both completely wrong.
It is simply a metal shelter.
What it used to store or cover, I have no idea.
But now it sits unloved and uncared for, and is partially filled with junk. Just junk.
It is a favorite resting area for the bucks when they move into town, and the three large, old trucks that I have photographed a few times in the past rest behind this structure.
Whatever it is or was matters not at all to me.
When I look at it - particularly when it stands in front of a sky that feels alive - it is simply a piece of art to me.  A large, largely forgotten, wholly neglected piece of art with wonderful bones and a story to tell that I may never know...................
I was walking with Kory in back of town early into the new year.
At that time of year every walk is a pursuit of deer sightings. 
When I looked up I realized that a large herd was slowly jogging across an empty piece of property and were all making their way towards the silos.
Thinking that we were likely too far away to get any good pictures I raised my camera anyway, zoomed in too far, and began taking pictures.
I ended up with a lot of great pictures considering the cheap little digital I was using, but what I found most interesting was the optical illusion that the pictures turned out to be.
The deer still had 1/4 mile to walk before reaching the silos, but it appeared in the pictures as though they were very close.
Rattlesnake Butte (aka The Tabletop) looked in the pictures to be right behind the silos, but it is actually two miles away.................
Horse shoes at the little town park close to the raceway.................
Pictures of a stunning sunset taken from the back yard................
And taken during one more of so many walks that I have traveled with this beautiful dog of ours...............
Ice crystals on a fence across the road from the house..............
THIS is why I love winter so much.
The world is completely and utterly magical at this time of year.............
Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully...........Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth 

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